Baking bread made easy

Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A DayAs promised, I’m going to share with you the recipe for that wonderful bread in my previous post. It was made using a master recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. The process—and recipe—is explained in detail in a number of other sites, which is where I first stumbled upon it. This master recipe has made me a believer, and I’ve already ordered the book. If baking bread in all its wonderful forms is something that interests you, I highly recommend that you do the same.

Check out their website, too. They have tons of incredible recipes, including one that uses this master recipe and a simple technique to make homemade naan.

I foresee a sharp increase in baking activities in this household. Likely to be accompanied by a corresponding increase in butter consumption.

I am also trying NOT to foresee a sharp increase in random acts of violence against the bathroom scale. Or the sudden purchase of circus mirrors.

Now, I’ve always been a dinner roll kind of gal. I like my bread light, fluffy, soft, and slightly sweet. If you’ve ever had good, freshly-baked Filipino pan de sal, you’ll know what I mean.

My husband, on the other hand, is more of a crusty, chewy, well-salted bread kinda guy. And it was my quest to make him the perfect loaf of crusty bread that led me to experiment with all kinds of recipes. And oh, there were so many of them. To illustrate the magnitude of my culinary ignorance, I spent quite some time searching for “recipes for French bread with big holes.” I even tried “large holes” or “holey” and all its different iterations. I think it probably took me a week to discover that “big holes,” while descriptive, only returns all sorts of strange results. What I really wanted was “open crumb.” (Although, in my defense, I still think “big holes” makes more sense.)

The first recipes I tried all involved the use of some amount of bread flour, heavy kneading, long rising times. Often, I couldn’t get that open crumb that I was looking for. I also tried the most popular no-knead recipes, but couldn’t get consistent results. Finally, I thought I nailed it. I found a long, involved recipe online that involved three separate rises (three!), took about 8 to 10 hours from start to finish, and included having to count out 6 ice cubes and hurling them onto the hot oven floor to create steam. And while the resulting bread had wonderful taste and texture and sported the elusive open crumb that I was looking for, the process was just so time-consuming and tedious that more often than not, I didn’t even bother getting started.

Then I found this recipe. And, truth be told, it wasn’t the promise of perfect, chewy, crunchy crust or the complex flavor of the resulting bread that convinced me to try it. No, I was drawn in by the “Five Minutes a Day” part of it, and the calculation that, with this recipe, you pretty much end up spending about 50 cents per loaf. Fifty cents! I can’t even get a decent bagel for that price. And you know what the clincher was?


You see those stripes? I wanted those stripes. I don’t know why, but at some point in my life, I apparently decided that I needed striped bread. And that it would be very, very good. (And okay, they’re not really called “stripes.” I found out later that it’s called a “scallop” pattern. It was an entire “big holes” embarrassment all over again.)

So here’s how to make the bread. You’ll need:

3 cups of lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Grab a very large mixing bowl, or a large container that you can cover. In it, mix the water, yeast, and salt. You don’t even have to heat up the water to a precise optimal temperature for the yeast. I’ve even used just regular tap water, and it’s worked well for me. Just let that sit together for a while (you don’t have to wait for the yeast to dissolve completely), then dump the flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon. You don’t need to knead this, and you’re not looking to make it come together into a dough ball. You just want everything mixed well, with no streaks of flour left, and you’re done.

Leave it in your container, covered (but not airtight, or it’ll pop), for a few hours. When it has risen and then deflated a bit, your dough is done. It’s ready to be used or stored in the refrigerator.


(That was me being a dork about estimating the size of the container I’d need. I ended up just lopping off all that excess dough and baking it right after.)

To bake the bread, just grab a chunk of dough (they recommend a chunk about the size of a grapefruit, but I’ve done larger chunks with no problem). Dust your hands with flour to help prevent sticking, and gently pull the sides of the dough toward the bottom, rotating the dough, until you get a roundish shape with a smooth surface. It should only take you about a minute or less to do this. The dough won’t be entirely in the bottom, where it may look bunched up, but don’t worry about it.

Put it on a pizza peel that’s been dusted with cornmeal to prevent sticking, and let it rest for at least 40 minutes. No need to cover it. If the dough has been refrigerated, it helps to let it rest a little more, until it’s no longer chilled.

Twenty minutes before you are ready to bake, put a pizza stone in the middle rack of your oven, and put a broiler pan in the bottom rack. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Dust some flour on the top of your loaf, and make your pretty slashes, about 1/4-inch deep. You can do a simple ‘x’ across it, a tic-tac-toe grid, or the stripes, er, scallop pattern.


After twenty minutes of preheating, it’s time to bake. (You can put the bread in after 20 minutes, even if your oven hasn’t reached 450 degrees yet.) Slide the loaf onto the baking stone, and then quickly (and CAREFULLY, lest you burn yourself like some hapless people I know) pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler pan. Then quickly shut the oven door to keep the steam inside.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until you get a nice brown crust. The crust will crackle and pop and make all sorts of happy noises as it sits on a wire rack to cool. It tastes best when you let it cool completely. Don’t worry if your beautiful crust seems to soften a bit. It will harden again, I promise.


And that’s all there is to it. It honestly took me more time to type this out than to make a loaf of bread. And although it still does involve some resting and rising time, the amount of time that you actually handle the dough is really only about five minutes.

The crust is nice and crisp and chewy, and the longer the dough sits, the more it develops a sourdough flavor. When you’re almost out of dough, you don’t even have to wash your container out. You can just go ahead and mix your next batch of dough in it, and the leftover remnants of bread help start it on its merry sourdough way. I think it would make a wonderful bread bowl for some creamy, hearty clam chowder. The dough can be used as pizza dough as well, and, as mentioned earlier, it can be used to make naan. Which I can’t wait to try.

boule two ways

And this, my friends, is my new favorite bread. And the new staple in this house. It’s easy, convenient, and tastes amazing. And although I still enjoy a good, soft dinner roll, this bread is quickly converting me.

Who knew big holes and stripes could be so convincing?


72 thoughts on “Baking bread made easy”

  1. Your post has inspired me to bake bread! Again…
    Years ago, I kept a sourdough starter live for over 10 years. I baked frequently; however, the loaves were soft, yet delicious. I will try this recipe. I have not purchased the mentioned cookbook, but have wondered if the bread/recipes were really good. I don’t need to eat all the bread this will make; I’ll have to find something to do with the dough. Does the bread maintain a crunchy crust (or does it get tough) for a couple of days, or is it best eaten the day it’s baked? Also, BEAUTIFUL pictures!

    1. Gale, the recipe is easily scalable, so you can even halve it if you’re concerned about being left with a lot of dough. But I will say that although that recipe supposedly makes enough to ensure that you have fresh bread for a week, it only lasted two days in my house. So I in fact doubled it for my next batch. You can use the dough for pizza, naan, pretzels … I seriously doubt any excess will go to waste.

      The crust stays beautiful and crunchy. It may lose some of its crunch by the next day (it hardly lasts that long here), but a quick toast in the toaster oven brings it right back to fresh-baked goodness.

  2. I’ve been using an Italian biga for months. I keep it in the fridge and when it gets low, I just add some more dough. I love, love, love having old dough around.

    1. I never knew you could keep old dough for that long until I tried this recipe, and now I’m making sure I ALWAYS have dough on hand!

    1. The full-sized batch (double the recipe in the post) supposedly makes you a 14-day supply, so I’m guessing it will last at least two weeks. Haven’t had a chance to test it though, since I’ve been baking so much that I run out of dough quickly. I just mixed up a double batch, so I’ll let you know how long it keeps.

  3. This looks so beautiful! I’ve used active dry yeast more recently to make english muffins. I can’t wait to make this recipe with the scallop pattern!

  4. There’s something about baking your own bread that’s so wholesome. Like you’re reverted back to the throes of house-wife-dom, only in the best way possible. I just got Rhulman’s new book, Ratio, and that, coupled with this, has inspired me to give it a go again, sans loaf pans and silly things like bread machines. Fantastic post, and pictures, as well.

    -Kenzi, from

  5. That sounds like exactly the bread recipe I have been searching for for many years. Definitely “knead” (ha!) to try this one!

  6. Glad you are on the bread-in-5 bandwagon! I have been making this bread for well over a year and have never had a miss. Try baking in a cast iron dutch oven. Place shaped dough on parchment paper. Pre-eat the dutch oven. When dutch oven is ready, carefully transfer your bread to the dutch oven…just lower it in on the _parchment need to remove the parchment paper. Start with lid on, bake for 15-20 minutes then carefully remove the lid. No need for pouring the cup of water into a broiler pan as the steam from the bread in the dutch oven is enough to give it that crackling crust.

    1. Hi Anne! Ever since I started baking this bread, I haven’t bought any bread at the store yet. I love it! Last night, I made smaller hoagie-type rolls for my son to take to school for lunch. I did try the dutch oven method described in their site, but I actually still prefer the bread made on the pizza stone. Which is kind of ironic, since the main reason I got the dutch oven was so that I could make bread in it. :)

  7. WOW, just finished my fresh baked loaf and buns (too much dough)…I have been obsessed with Panera breads, and forever get my lunchtime sammies there, but NO more…

    My only concerns are how sticky the dough is…quite a pain. The second concern is how the hell do you pierce the top of the loaf????? I know this must be a secret, or do I need to add more flour?

    Thanks again for this great find.

    1. Hi James! Yes, the dough is quite sticky. At first, I was afraid to dust my hands liberally with flour, thinking that I might be altering the dough mix if I add too much flour. But after watching this video, I got the hang of it. And after you shape the dough, dust the surface with flour before you score it, and make sure you use a sharp knife. The site has other videos and recipes that make sure of this master dough. I made naan the other night with the same dough. It was brilliant!

  8. really? this is hard to believe. why does it work? i have made amazing bread of my own freshly ground wheat — done the multiple rise, rest, and shape, following Laurel’s Bread Book. Does it work with whole wheat?

  9. I have a question, I have been making bread since I was 8 yrs old and a few months ago, it stopped working. I dont know if its my hard water, or if I need to appeal to the Gods but nothing will rise. I made this recipe today, and made sure (with my kids counting along) to do the recipe exactly and its so dry I had to add an additional cup of water and its still very dry. I cant get the flour mixed in, does anyone have any suggestions? Basically none of my bread rises, no matter what recipe I use. Help!

    1. Oh no! I can definitely understand how frustrating that must be. How are you measuring the flour? The authors warn against using 2-cup measuring cups because you tend to get more flour in (there’s so much flour in there that it tends to compress). They suggest the scoop and sweep method. I would probably first try not dumping the entire amount of flour in. Leave back a cup or even two cups, and mix the rest in. Then add some in a quarter cup at a time if the dough still feels wet. You’re better off with a wet dough than a dry one.

      I wonder why bread-making suddenly stopped working for you 8 months ago. That does seem odd. Other factors that affect the rise would be the quality of the yeast, humidity, etc. I will say that the first loaf won’t appear to rise to much while resting, but it will absolutely rise in the oven.

      Do let me know how it turns out for you. If your bread problems persist, the authors are extremely helpful, too, so you can also try their site at and leave them a comment with your question. And keep me posted!

      1. Ah you are the first person to answer me!!! Thank you for answering! People are busy… they dont always have time. I add flour 1/4 cup at a time, my stepdad taught me to make bread when I was 8 and I made it for our whole family of 8 from that time on. I always made traditional knead 2 rise times bread with fresh ground wheat. I still grind my own wheat but now have a bosch and a bunch of fancy bread recipes! We had a water softener installed yesterday and hopefully it will work better now! I did try this recipe on here, and it didnt do badly at all. I had only 2 problems. 1, the water isnt enough for the flour. I had to add an extra cups, I am assuming its my hard Ks water. Next, it rises upwards, not out and so the center is having trouble getting done! It tastes fabulous also, I tried making baguettes out of it this am. Thanks again for your help!

        1. Good to hear you at least had some success with the bread. Hope the water softener helps. We’re getting one here, too.

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  11. Has anyone made this bread on the grill (Primo/Big Green Egg)? I love the way pizza crust taste on our grill & would love to try this but not quite sure. I might play around with it tonight.

    1. Did you try it? I haven’t made bread on the grill yet, but I can’t wait until it gets warm outside so I can try it. I did make pizza with the dough last night, and it was lovely!

  12. Thank you for this! I just baked my second loaf and they both turned out great! I’m enjoying it fresh from the oven with some brie. I didn’t use a pizza stone, just a regular old cookie sheet, and it turned out just fine.

    1. I would love to try this recipe but I don’t have pizza peel or stone. =( I’m glad to know that it works on cookie sheet. I will have to try this!

      1. Thank goodness! I was afraid to try the recipe with a cookie sheet (that’s all I have right now). I can’t sleep most nights so I’m taking advantage and making bread for the first time. Someone cross their fingers for me, please?

  13. Okay this is a great recipe but it lasted 1 day. I did make it work even with my current rise problems! I made this in my baguette pan, I made 2 first and my kids ate it all so I made 2 more so my husband ate all of that and made the last of it for me… This stuff is amazing! In the baguette pan, its different bc of all the airy holes in the pan, than if you bake it on a stone. Its very much like the bread we ate in france and germany and I have been trying to recreate that type of bread for 6 years!
    I ordered both books as well… Amazon had free shipping!

    1. Good going! Their books are full of wonderful different recipes, and ideas on what to do with the dough beyond the basic loaves. Lots of excellent information there.

      It’s also nice to know I’m not the only one suffering from “disappearing” dough. :) I’ve never had a batch make it past four days or so. And I’m talking about the full 13-cups-of-flour batch.

  14. What is a pizza peel? Is that the same as a pizza stone? I’m excited to try making this over the weekend! If it turns out good, I’m going to put roasted garlic in it! :)

    1. Jenny, a pizza peel is that paddle-type tool used to slide the unbaked dough onto the hot stone. How did the roasted garlic bread turn out?

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    1. Marie, yes it works without a pizza stone. You can use a cookie sheet, and although the crust won’t get as hard and crackling as when you use a stone, the bread will still have its wonderful flavor.

    1. Zoë, your book has transformed our kitchen into a bread-producing machine. Thank you so much! I am no longer scared of wild buckets of dough. :)

  16. Thanks everyone for the lovely comments! I, too, was so enamored by the beautiful bread when it first came out of my oven that, as you can see, I couldn’t stop taking pictures. (Until, of course, I couldn’t take the fresh-baked-bread smell anymore and had to dig in.)

  17. THANK YOU – for the way you posted this (and gave such credit to the authors, etc.) and for all of your helpful tips here in the comments. I just studied them all as I was in the middle of my first attempt (even watched that video which is genius – thanks – love that it shows how much it should have risen, and how to slash the loaf…) and am waiting on my dough to rise now.

    I saw earlier in the comments that you mention how long this dough lasts… does that mean you can just leave the dough (after the first rise) in the fridge in your container and pull off a piece anytime you need a loaf? Sorry for such an elementary question – I’m scared stiff of yeast and want to make this work!

    Thanks again!

    1. Kara, this dough is meant to be left in the refrigerator in the container, and will last up to 2 weeks. Which means you can always have a stash ready when you need your next loaf. It also works for pizza and naan, and when the dough is almost done, you can just mix up another batch in there without even cleaning it out. The remaining dough will give your next batch a boost in developing that sourdough flavor.

      Tell me how your loaf turns out!

  18. Hi- thanks for the post. I already ordered the book, too!
    Anyway, I was wondering if you had a recommendation on a stone? Your’s looks beautiful in the pics and I want to get one that will last!

  19. OHMIGOD! Just pulled the first loaf out of the oven. Yum-oh and SOOOOO easy! Thank you for posting the recipe, the link to the video, the authors website, etc. There is nothing like ripping apart a crispy, crunchy crust to find a soft middle, smothering it in butter (from the Vermont Butter & Cheese, Co. if you are lucky – BEST butter in the world) and then popping that delicious morsel into one’s mouth. :-D Wonderful pics!! Can’t wait to try the Challah! Tracy

  20. hi! i just made this bread today. hubby and i love it! i still have some dough left in the fridge that i’ll use as soup bowls or for dips (like spinach dip) in the very near future. thanks so much for sharing the recipe.

    by the way, i found your website through jaden of steamy kitchen.

    1. Hi Rita! Nice of you to visit. I’ve started using bread flour with this recipe (reducing it by 1/4 cup), and it makes it a bit chewier, which my husband likes. Glad you liked it. The Artisan Bread in 5 folks are amazing!

    1. What I do is close the lid all the way, then crack it open just a little bit—not all the way around, just in one spot so that it’s not completely airtight. I’ve made that mistake before of leaving the lid just a tad too open, and ended up drying up the top layer of my dough too. Hope you didn’t lose too much of your dough! (When I ended up with dried dough, I tried to salvage it because I just couldn’t bear to throw it out. I rolled it out a bit, brushed it with oil, and then cooked it in a pan. The oil softened the dried dough and I ended up with a kind of make-shift flatbread, much like shortcut naan.)

  21. I’m sort of a newby here and I tried the bread and totally in love with it. I’ve never been a good bread makers. Cakes, pies, most other sweets, I do ok. But bread was always scary to me. This is so easy and I’ve made it 5 or 6 times in the last few weeks. It always turns our yummy. I do have a problem with the bottom not browning. I’m using a well used stone to bake it on and still can’t get the bottom brown. Anyone have any suggestions for me?

  22. I tried this bread tonight. The dough was really, really wet, even though I used the correct amounts of water and flour. After it rose, I had to add a lot more flour to make it workable. I’m baking it now, and it’s still a little on the loose side. It was too soft to even put the knife marks into it for the stripes. I’m hoping it will bake up lovely and wonderful as the picture, sans stripes, but I’m wondering if anyone else had this problem?

    1. I made this dough today, after I let it rise, it was really, really wet still. So I put it in the refrigerator for about an hour or two, then it was a little bit better. But, you need to use a lot of flour on your hands and sprinkle it liberally on the dough before you even get it out of the container. I used a ton of flour and then was able to make it into the round mound to bake. Keeping fingers crossed it comes out good!

  23. We LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this bread! Thank you for sharing it and making the recipe so clear to follow. I have shared it with everyone I know–they all ask for the recipe when I make the bread and tell them how easy it is!

  24. Thank you so much for inspiring me to try this recipe! It was absolutely fabulous! I tried replacing some of the white flour with 3 1/2 cups of whole wheat and 1/4 cup gluten, to make it slightly healthier, it tasted just as good. =)

  25. I just baked off my first loaf and it worked! I wasn’t sure about it, but went back and looked at that video link and realized it was just fine. I thought mine was on the small size, but realized theirs wasn’t a huge loaf either. You should put that video link up by the main post, I think it will help a lot of people. I used the yeast you normally throw right in the flour. I did use White Whole Wheat so it was a little denser, but overall great. Next time I think I will up the yeast a tad to compensate for the whole wheat. In general, how many loaves do you get out of one batch?

  26. I noticed in an earlier comment that you can turn some of the dough into pizza crust or naan. Is there some sort of method to do this or do you just need to shape it into the desired bread product?

  27. OMG! I made this bread this afternoon for dinner and it is the best bread I have ever made. I made a boule and a baguette and when I bit into the baguette it took me back to Paris when I first had a baguette with fromage for breakfast. I still have dough in a container in the frig and I would like to make pretzels, but I don’t know how. Do I need to add anything to the dough? Can you shed a light? Thank you!

  28. Just made this bread today. Not only was it easy to make , but it was delicious. The texture was awesome I’ve been looking for a bread like this for a long time. Glad I found it. Thanks so much for posting this recipe!

  29. I just came across this recipe on Pinterest. I was looking for a minimum fuss bread that doesn’t take 2 days to make. I am a novice at making bread so I was a little nervous, but your recipe sounded doable. I made it tonight and I am THRILLED with the outcome. It is a beautiful, easy, yummy loaf of bread! This is going to be my go-to for bread from now on. Thank you!

  30. I made this bread, I baked this bread, I ate this bread—and OMG it is delicious. I ate it with my dinner, then I ate a piece with some homemade cherry preserves. I think I will have another piece before I go to bed!!!!! Thank you for sharing this recipe. I feel like I am a baker and really did not do too much of anything (but no one needs to know that, do they!).

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